I think we can all agreed say we're #blessed to not live in the world of weird old beauty tricks from generations past. My own beauty regimen is pretty simple: A sweep of mascara, a slash of eyeliner, a brush of powder, and I’m out the door. Of course, I know women who take it much further than that — I remember my neighbor, who was ever-so-cool in high school while I was a dumpy uniformed seventh grader — telling me about her daily routine: moisturizers, plucking, morning massages, then careful application of foundation, powder, eyeliner, mascara, eyeshadow, lipstick… the list went on and on.
As I grew older I realized there was no one single way to do your makeup, and the possibilities (and brands) were limitless. But ladies, let me tell you now: No matter what your daily routine is, it cannot even shake a powder brush to what our ancestors put themselves through. You’ve surely all heard of Elizabeth I whitening her face with deadly lead powder (for that simply gorgeous pale-as-the-living-dead look), but I can’t help but think what old Lizzy’d have to say about our modern-day piranha foot pedicures? There’s one thing that hasn’t changed through the ages, and that’s just how far we’ll take ourselves — and our bodies — in the pursuit of beauty. Check out these five crazy beauty fads we women tried in days gone by.
1. Dimple Machine
In 1936, tired of her no-good, perfectly smooth face, Isabella Gilbert of Rochester, New York made the kind of device you’d expect to see in a Saw movie, not sitting on the boudoir of a fashionable young lady. Apparently you were expected to fall asleep with this contraption on, and wake up to a beautifully dented face in the morning.
Nowadays, a dimple-making procedure (I propose “dimpleotomy”) will run you anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, and takes about 15 minutes. But the look on your significant other’s face when they see you wearing this monstrosity at night? Priceless.
2. Plucked Hairlines
Can you imagine a world where a forehead that goes halfway across your scalp is the standard of beauty? “Oh Bill, look at that fine lady’s forehead skin. It really turns me on. How sexually appetizing.” Believe it or not, young women used to actually pluck or shave their hairlines to be more attractive. And that actually wasn’t the only thing they plucked and shaved if you catch my drift… Let’s just say that medieval ladies were going Brazilian before anyone even knew about Brazil.
From an 11th century text called “De Ornatu Mulierum” (“Of Women’s Cosmetics”):
In order permanently to remove hair. Take ants' eggs, red orpiment, and gum of ivy, mix with vinegar, and rub the areas.
3. Raw Meat Facials
This one hits a little too close to home. As recent as the 1930s, women were encouraged to “cut paper strips” to fit their face and then take in those papers to their butcher and get strips of meat cut to size. (I can only imagine what these ladies’ butchers thought of that.) Then they were supposed to put the meat on their faces for a meat facial. I’ll repeat that just in case you missed it. Raw. Meat. On. Your. Face. Then, just to make it even more of a horror show, you were instructed to secure the meat to your face, leaving only room for your eyes and mouth, with strips of muslin. Imagine that for a hot second.
While I can kind of see the benefits to this (protein, moisture, pranking your friends into thinking your skin fell off), I'm not sure it’s worth going around smelling like you just slaughtered a baby cow with your face. Surely they had face lotion in the 1930s...
4. Lysol Douches
Next time you wipe down a surface with Lysol, take a deep whiff. Do you smell all those gentle and loving chemicals burning your nose hairs? Now imagine those wafting fumes caressing the inner walls of your hoo-ha. That’s right, Lysol was originally used as a douching agent for birth control purposes. The worst part is it didn’t even work, and the scariest part is that it could actually kill you. By 1911, doctors reported nearly 200 poisonings and five deaths related to the phenol compound Lysol used to use in its formula. And in a 1933 study about douching, almost half of the women who used it as a birth control method got pregnant anyway. If you’re going to almost kill yourself, it should at least work, right?
5. Tapeworm Diets
This one might actually be more of a rumor than an actual fad diet, but since it’s such a well-known rumor, I’m adding it because you just know some idiot out there has tried this. Apparently, by swallowing the miniature nightmare known as a tapeworm, you can lose a ridiculous amount of weight. Famous opera singer Maria Callas was reported to have tried this diet, and it's said to have worked very well for her. It’s not recommended though: Tapeworms can cause headaches, eye problems, epilepsy, and meningitis. Diets are such BS.